My love affair with American folk music began in Ann Arbor, Michigan where I studied and worked. There I began to play mountain dulcimer, sing, try out the bones. The folk scene in Ann Arbor was and still is very rich - and I had the opportunity to immerse myself in the culture. As I veered off into more experimental ideas in music the folk threads remained - references in pieces like Four Marys (my first string quartet), Cruel Sister (string orchestra work that follows the arc of an old Scottish ballad), and most recently Steel Hammer (an evening length art ballad for Trio Mediaeval and the Bang on a Can All-Stars). In With a blue dress on for five violins the folk roots come to the fore with fiddling licks, fragments of song, and bows deep into the string. I was inspired by a plaintive field recording of a woman singing "Pretty little girl with a blue dress on." Her tone was rough and her rhythm irregular. The timing and tempos, or implied tempos, in my piece play on this irregularity and fluctuation - placing folk-like fragments into a kind of joyful hyper state.
With a blue dress on was written for Monica Germino and commissioned by the Eduard van Beinum Stichting.